A little organization and some hard work on the part of students at Swanson Middle School went a long way to fight hunger in Arlington last week. As one of 10 schools that participated in the Arlington Food Assistance Center's (AFAC) National Hunger Awareness Day food drive June 6, Swanson students helped out by collecting cereal and peanut butter.
"THIS IS JUST our little way of helping out families who have a hard time putting food on the table," said Swanson family and consumer sciences teacher Chris Taylor.
The springboard for the Swanson food drive came from Taylor's class. She explained that part of the class curriculum is to organize a community service project in the fall and spring. This spring, her students decided to help out AFAC. "We just motivated our kids and they're moving," Taylor said.
After the initial decision, Taylor's students went straight to work planning the event. Seventh-grader Stephanie Jennings coordinated the food drive planning, and along with her classmates, made flyers, and did in-class announcements to advertise the event. "Helping the community is important and something we're happy to do," Jennings said.
Christine Lucas, executive director of AFAC, said that food drives like the one held at Swanson are important to help families keep their budgets balanced. "The high cost of living here in Arlington means that a lot of families struggle to make ends meet," she said.
AFAC sponsored countywide food drives in the schools, businesses, apartment complexes as well as drop-off sites the day of June 6th, and held its 3rd Annual Restaurant Night where 25 Arlington restaurants agreed to donate part of their proceeds to AFAC.
"We give out a lot of food and it is a case of week-in, week-out, trying to find new sources of donations," AFAC Board Chair Fred Jones said. "Something like this is a big boom to us."
With a total distribution of about 1 million pounds of food a year, AFAC serves nearly 600 Arlington families a week. After the event was completed, AFAC raked in more than 6,000 pounds of food to help feed hungry Arlington families, with 1,636 pounds of that total coming from Swanson.
"WE'RE VERY pleased with the total amount," Lucas said. She explained that AFAC did not really have a specific goal for food collection, and that this was the first time they had done a drive on such a big scale.
According to Taylor, 270 boxes were collected at Swanson on June 6, the first of four pickup days last week. The goal was to have one box of cereal and one jar of peanut butter from each Swanson student by the end of the week.
Additional support for the food drive came from the FedEx Corporation. It teamed up with AFAC and six other Arlington school food drives, providing an Operation FedEx Special Delivery truck to transport the food to AFAC headquarters in South Arlington.